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April 09, 2015

IT, the new game changer in service providers industry

Have you ever carefully watched relay races? Being one of my favorite sports, I am impressed by the balanced teamwork and precision that is needed to win such a race. Handing over the baton is the most crucial and exciting part of the race. If that fails, speed doesn’t matter. Everything needs to be in perfect sync: speed, distance, direction, and timing.

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Service providers are also in a constant relay race. They face enormous international competition, need constant innovations to improve the quality and scope of their services, and need efficient processing to retain financial margins and benefits. To win this race, all stakeholders – including customers, contract managers, front offices, back offices, subcontractors, field engineers and admin staff – need to be in perfect sync. They can perform well individually, but if someone drops the baton, the race is lost.

Chain Integration
But how can you ensure that all these stakeholders perform well individually and pass the baton successfully to the next? In earlier days, these connection points, where the chain integrates, were supported by basic instruments like phone calls, emails or personal interaction. A lot of valuable time was wasted and no one was ever sure the baton was well taken by the next stakeholder. A lot of relevant information got lost or was duplicated, increasing the chance for failure in the next steps of the chain. And nobody could ever analyze the performance of that chain to identify potential improvements. It’s interesting to see that today many large service providers still run their business on these basic instruments while their customers have evolved and expect fast execution, full transparency, and competitive offerings.

IT changes the game
Service providers that innovate and acquire others to increase their offering are definitely moving in the right direction. However, without a clear strategy on chain integration and without concrete improvements in their operations, the risk of failure is still huge.

But what’s the potential role of IT in chain integration, and how does that impact the industry? Today’s modern Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) offer technology and functionality to unify all stakeholders from any service chain in one single IT platform. Customers, contract managers, subcontractors, field engineers; they all have access to the same platform via relevant functionality, tailored to their profile and needs. Customers have easy web-based access to self-service or use smart apps to request services. Back office specialists utilize asset management functions, plan maintenance and manage service level agreements. Field engineers use mobile solutions to access and execute assigned work in the most efficient way. And last but not least, managers can monitor and control the complete process from customer demand until services delivery and administrative closing.

IWMS hands over the baton
A truly integrated IWMS solution ensures all stakeholders are unified in a single platform, all use the same data, and get supported with relevant functionality. Compared to the relay race, all stakeholders run on the same track. To ensure a perfectly synced handover of the baton, IWMS offers practical tools like workflow management, approval procedures, automated dispatching, SLA checks, alerts, notifications, monitoring dashboards, and easy web access to personalized reports.

Innovative service providers utilize IWMS to stand out from competition by connecting their customers in the chain. In the near future this will become a must have as customers will require such a connection.

Threat or opportunity? Depends in which league you want to play. For service providers who aim for growth, customer retention and a strong competitive edge, this is definitely a great opportunity. Leading to increased transparency, reduced processing times and increased overall efficiency. Resulting in a better and competitive value proposition and healthy margins.

Jos Knops
Director Global Product Marketing